Sri Lanka v India

Second Test

ESPNcricinfo staff

The curse of Kandy struck again as Sri Lanka let slip a golden opportunity to go 2-0 up. An uncharacteristic collapse on the third morning, when their top order threw' away the advantage of a useful 42-run first-innings lead, allowed India back into the series. Only a 64-run partnership between Muralitharan and Ruchira Perera, a Sri Lankan last-wicket record against India, raised the target to 264, and India had more than two days to chase that. Dravid was once again in the thick of things as they did so, winning the duel with Muralitharan through some audacious back-foot play square of the wicket and oozing class as he scored 75 vital runs. Meanwhile the left-handed Ganguly, without a half-century in his last 13 Test innings, made a timely return to form and, for the first time in the series, the Indian batting looked dominant. Ganguly, dismantling the howling with his scorching drives, was a man transformed as he led his country to victory with an unbeaten 98, including 15 fours. "We were determined to stay positive." he said after the dust had settled.

For once, Jayasuriya lost the toss, and then gave India a huge psychological boost when he needlessly ran himself out, going for a second in the fifth over. But Sri Lanka rode through the day on a century from Jayawardene, who scored 104. with 17 fours and a five, out of 154 runs in almost four hours at the crease. The next best score was 42 from Vaas, who followed up with a penetrative spell of left-arm scam bowling to claim four for 65. India's eventual 232 owed everything to a face-saving 64-run stand for the seventh wicket between Dighe and Harbhajan Singh. Harbhajan's cameo 44 off 32 balls included nine fours, four off successive deliveries from Fernando.

With the game still only in its second day. Sri Lanka's priority should have been to consolidate the first-innings lead earned by their bowlers. Instead, the top order succumbed to excellent seam bowling from the left/right combination of Zaheer Khan and Prasad. Jayasuriya went cheaply again, bowled by Zaheer, who first thing on the third morning had Sangakkara caught behind with his third balk one of four wickets to fall before lunch. Tillekeratne was the only recognised batsman to survive info the afternoon, becoming the fourth Sri Lankan to score 3.000 Test runs on the way, and when the ninth wicket fell. the overall lead was just 199.

Muralitharan, taking a leaf out of Harbhajan's book, unexpectedly opened up a prospect for Sri Lanka's bowlers to win the game. 'lb the delight of his home crowd. he smashed an astonishing maiden Test fifty. picking everything from off to leg and reaching 67 off 65 balls with three sixes and five fours; Perera contributed just six to their heroic stand of 64. Ganguly ran out of ideas to separate them. He kept his fast bowlers on too long and set defensive fields with eight men on the line. Finally he turned to Harbhajan, who had Murali caught going for another six. Next day, it was the turn of Dravid and Ganguly to lay on the heroics, and for India to celebrate a four-day win.

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